Nina Chanel Abney tells hard truths and leaves room for questions at Pace Prints
Like many local artists, Janyce Glasper treks up to New York every now and again to see what’s new. Here she fills us in on the latest from Nina Chanel Abney, who has just started translating the aesthetic of her politically-charged collage paintings into monoprints. If your plans take you to the big(ger) city, you can view Abney’s powerful, ambiguous work for yourself at Pace Prints through December 15, 2018.

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Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.

On a recent New York City trip, I saw both Nina Chanel Abney’s latest solo exhibition at Pace Prints and the now-closed Punch, which she curated at Jeffrey Deitch. In the latter, she exhibited her own work alongside that of an eclectic group of contemporary artists including Derrick Adams, David Shrobe, Caitlin Cherry and Jonathan Lyndon Chase. Abney’s energetic mixed media painting — a weeping black boxer and his bleeding white opponent exchanging blows while question marks, dots, numbers, and dollar signs interrupt the intense action — runs parallel to the work at Pace Prints both formally and thematically, though in a different medium.

In two rooms at Pace Prints, Abney exhibits her first body of monoprints. Some works stand alone — others are arranged in triptychs, tetra-tychs (4), and even penta-tychs (5). A single piece, blocked in over ten colors, features a worried black boy raising a basketball over his head. Numbers are stacked beside him like the marks measuring a child’s height progression. In a world of limited options where basketball becomes the ultimate black boy fantasy, Abney conveys the figure’s vulnerability and desire to succeed.

Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.

No satisfaction

In a striking triptych, Abney illustrates the tension between a white buyer (labeled “BUY”) and a distraught black seller (labeled “SALE”). Both figures are surrounded by red houses marked with green dollar and cent signs and a swarm of surveillant eyes. A blue tear drips down the black man’s cheek. A triangular blue flag decorated in white stars and planted on a red and green background is stationed between the two figures. Symbolic colors of both American and Pan African flags make for an uncomfortable interjection, and Abney is able to suggest historical disparities without being too overt. These men are dressed identically — in a white shirt and blue pants — yet only one of them is satisfied.

My favorite piece contains three playing cards on intense red backgrounds. Three shirtless figures appear in various poses, their facial expressions and bodily gestures conveying a range of emotions. The king of hearts, in a patterned green skirt, has hands clasped together in a hopeful manner that also reads as anxious and expectant. The fit-bodied, afroed (and mustachioed) queen leans to one side, hand on hip in a cavalier fashion that is both sassy and defiant. The solemn ace of hearts, who is almost nude in polka dot bikini underwear, bears six udder-like shapes and two distinct nipples. Maybe this all hints at the game of love and its complications. Or perhaps there is a deeper analysis of gender roles.

Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.

A sign of the times

As a fellow black woman artist absorbing Abney’s latest works, I see her commitment to preserving historical and present context. Her images are intimate, heavy, heartbreaking, ambiguous. Their charged colors and sharp stenciled cuts raise open ended questions about race and gender in America. This smart, engrossing work expresses black pain and black worth, showing that the truth cannot be bartered or bargained. There is something to fight for. And Abney vouches hardcore.

“Nina Chanel Abney” is on view October 26, 2018- December 15, 2018 at Pace Prints, 4th Floor, 521 West 26th Street, New York, New York 10001. Gallery hours: Tues-Fri 10-6PM, Sat 11-6PM.


More Photos

Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.
Prints by Nina Chanel Abney, Pace Prints, NYC. Photo courtesy of Janyce Glasper.

 

Tags

new york city, Nina Chanel Abney, NYC, Pace Prints, Punch

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